Council tax rise to be discussed at policy and resources committee

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Council tax payers in Argyll and Bute could see their bills rise by almost five per cent from April – while dozens of local authority jobs could be lost.

A possible rise of 4.79 per cent has been mooted in a new report – and would leave council tax payers in a Band D property, the middle of the council tax scale, facing a bill of £1,308.33 for 2019-20.

That represents a total increase of £59.33 on Argyll and Bute’s current Band D charge.

The revelations are contained in a document on the plans for the 2019/20 financial year, which will be discussed on Thursday, February 14 by the council’s policy and resources committee.

The authority’s spending plans will then be considered by the full council on Thursday, February 21.

The report, by head of strategic finance Kirsty Flanagan, also states that if all proposals are agreed, it will leave the council with a financial cushion of more than £1 million – although it warns that a significant budget gap remains in future years.

Ms Flanagan said: “New savings options for 2019/20 have now been identified as a result of the work led by the Transformation Board.

“The savings options have been classified into management/operational options where there are no policy implications and will not result in any redundancies and policy options, where there are either policy or staffing implications.

“All policy options have been categorised into statutory duty, statutory power or non-statutory service.

“The savings options identified propose a reduction to the council’s staffing of 49.2 FTE (full-time equivalent) within 2019/20 should they all be accepted by members.”

The posts under threat include school lollipop crossing patrols, a proposal which has been met with fierce opposition since it was announced in December.

As reported last week, a petition by Hermitage Primary School’s parent council attracted nearly 250 signatures, with around the same number responding to an online survey.

Ms Flanagan added: “Councils have had the discretion to increase council tax by a maximum of three per cent each year since 2017/18.

“A letter from the cabinet secretary for finance, economy and fair work advised of changes to the provisional settlement.

“One change was to provide local authorities with the flexibility to increase the council tax by three per cent in real terms, which equates to 4.79 per cent next year.

“In light of the estimated reduction in the Scottish Government funding together with cost increases in respect of pay, inflation and other pressures, I have assumed that the council would wish to increase the council tax by 4.79 per cent, however, this is a matter for council to decide.

“In terms of the future years, I have assumed no increase in the worst case scenario, a three per cent increase in the mid-range scenario and a 4.79 per cent increase in the best case scenario.”

The report also asks the council to consider a £120,000 funding request to support staging the Royal National Mod in Oban in 2023, along with a £23,330 cost to renew its contract with Kintyre Recycling Ltd.

Ms Flanagan said: “If members agreed to all the proposals already noted within this report this would produce a balanced budget in 2019-20 with a surplus of £1.032m.

“There remains a significant budget gap in future years and the Transformation Board have already identified a number of longer term options worthy of pursuit.”